Pakistan Policy Group

World Values: What makes nations happy?

Posted on | June 19, 2012 | No Comments

The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. This means that priorities have shifted from economic and physical security to more subjective concerns of well being like self-expression. Thus modernisation and economic progress is not a linear process, once a society moves towards high levels of economic growth, there are only incremental changes in quality of life. However, attitudes towards wellbeing continue to evolve.

Figure 1: Survival and Well Being as related to per capita GNP.

The World Values Survey (WVS) is one such piece of research that tries to find evidence that orientations have shifted. Since the 1990s, results from the World Values Survey have been noticing a shift from Traditional toward Secular-rational values in almost all industrial societies. The Survey is a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have, carried out by a worldwide network of social scientists since 1981. The WVS is the only source of empirical data on attitudes covering a majority of the world’s population (nearly 90%). Data from the World Values Survey have for example been used to better understand the motivations behind events such as the 2010-2011 Middle East and North Africa protests, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the Yugoslav wars and political upheaval in the 1990s. The survey is conducted every few years and is in the final phases of its 2012 research.

Two dimensions dominate the picture in the WVS analysis: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

According to the WVS website, the Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not with a wide range of other related orientations. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics. The second major dimension of cross-cultural variation is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies-which brings a polarization between Survival and Self-expression values.

Each country is positioned according to its people’s values and not its geographical location. To a large extent the two coincide, but the map measures cultural proximity, not geographical proximity. Thus, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain are cultural neighbors, reflecting their relatively similar values, despite their geographical dispersion. Figure 2 and 3 provide a comparison of world values between 2004 and 2008. The nature of the values on either axis is explained by Figure 4.

Figure 2: The World Value Survey Cultural Map 2005-2008

Source: Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, “Changing Mass Priorities: The Link Between Modernization and Democracy.” Perspectives on Politics June 2010 (vol 8, No. 2) page 554.

Figure 3: The World Value Survey Cultural Map 1999-2004

Source: Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005: page 63.

Figure 3: Scatter chart of Authority and Survival or Well Being
Source: R. Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization (Princeton, 1997).

The shift from survival values to self-expression values includes shifts in child-rearing values, shifts from hard work toward emphasis on imagination and tolerance as important values to teach a child. This is supplanted with a rising sense of subjective well-being that is conducive to an atmosphere of tolerance, trust and political moderation. Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.

Happiness: Religion and national pride

The WVS has often been used to measure happiness in states. Data from representative national surveys carried out from 1981 to 2007 shows the extent to which a society allows free choice has a major impact on happiness.

The WVS finds that that national pride had a strong zero-order correlation with attitudes towards well being but it was closely linked with strong emphasis on religion.  When included with religiosity in the regression, national pride did not have an independent impact. Both religion and national pride were stronger in less-developed societies than in developed ones, which helps explain why some low-income societies had relatively high levels of “happiness”. For example, the contrast between the Latin American societies and the ex- communist societies shown in Figure 5 may be due in part to the fact that virtually all of the Latin American societies surveyed at that time were strongly religious and had strong national pride, whereas the ex-communist nations were not religious and did not have national pride: 76% of those surveyed in Latin American countries stated that ‘‘God is very important in my life’’ (placing themselves the top of a 10-point scale), whereas only 27% of those surveyed in the ex-communist countries and 42% of those surveyed in the remaining countries did so. In addition, 77% of those surveyed in Latin American countries said they are ‘‘very proud’’ of their nationality, as compared with 39% of those surveyed in the ex-communist societies and 57% of those surveyed in the remaining countries.

Figure 5: Happiness and GNP

So while we started off by saying that more democratic and prosperous countries have values that encourage self-expression, and people in those countries are not worried about survival, happiness is something that exists even is non-industrialized and conservative states. These countries score high on traditional values as well as having good scores with regards to self expression (Figure 2). Thus it is choice and self expression that makes for happiness, regardless of traditional values. Secular-rational nations are only happy, when they are not worried with survival. Thus countries like Denmark are Sweden are “happy” and post-communist countries are “unhappy”.

WVS Methodology: The World Values Survey uses the sample surveys as its mode of data collection, a systematic and standardized approach to collect information through interviewing representative national samples of individuals. Samples are drawn from the entire population of 18 years and older. The minimum sample is 1000. In most countries, no upper age limit is imposed and some form of stratified random sampling is used to obtain representative national samples. The survey is carried out by professional organizations using face-to-face interviews or phone interviews for remote areas. Each country has a Principal Investigator responsible for conducting the survey in accordance with the fixed rules and procedures.



Afghanistan: Poppies aplenty

Posted on | May 4, 2012 | 3 Comments

Afghanistan’s farmers earned $1.4 billion from opium in 2011, an increase of 133 percent over the year before. That’s about 9 percent of the country’s GDP. Policy options to constrain poppy cultivation have all fallen short.

Poppy cultivation was at its peak in Afghanistan in 2007, but recent reports suggest that there is to be a bumper crop this year. According to UN reports, there is an increase in production in 9 provinces since 2011. The provinces of Kandahar and Hilmand are the biggest producers with increases expected in the north western provinces. The increasing price of opium is to blame for this, as well as conditions of poverty, insecurity, corruption and mis-governance. According to the above mentioned UN Report, “High sales price of opium” was the predominant reason (71%) for growing opium (77% in 2011). About 13% of respondents in villages with opium cultivation cited that poverty was the reason for cultivating opium. This was followed by “high income from little land” (5%) as reason for cultivating opium.

Expected opium cultivation trends in 2012 (by province) (UN)

According to The Economist, this has reversed the gains made through the the British government’s “food zone” initiative which was one effort to cut down the opium trade. Under this initiative, farmers were subsidized to grow alternative crops, with the successive dismantling of poppy farms. The zone is implemented in central Helmand where security conditions have improved with an inflow of British, American and other foreign troops. However, this has led to the trade being transferred to neighboring Farah, as well as drug barons striking deals with the Taliban.

Price of dry opium and food grains in 2011 and 2012 (US$/kg) (Opium Winter Risk Assessment Survey, 2012)

Thus until an alternative-crop programs does not become generally applicable, gains in one province will just move production to another. There is evidence to suggest that more subsidies and facilities to farmers could make them switch crops. There is a strong, statistically significant association between lack of agricultural assistance and poppy cultivation according to the UN. Villages, which had not received agricultural assistance, were more likely to grow poppy than villages which had received assistance. But with the security conditions, Taliban, and weak state of government this seems unlikely to happen in the medium term.

The US has already spent $4.7 billion on anti-drug programs in Afghanistan, with minimal results, which is why their policy shifted to “food zone” type of programs. A simple yet drastic option is to buy up all the opium with the same amount of money that was previously been used for anti-drug programs. A recent New York Times article suggests that if the United States and its partners bought all of Afghanistan’s opium, a major source of corruption in Afghanistan would disappear along with violence in Taliban controlled areas as well as global heroin and morphine addiction. The opium could be redirected to medical use, like morphine which is in globally in short supply. This type of “buying up” has the potential to make the drug trade legal and provide and honest living for farmers. India, for example, has implemented a licensing system where accredited farmers grow opium and it is processed and exported. Even with leakages into illicit markets, there would still be progress.

While the above options seem unlikely to be implemented soon, foreign donors have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on border security and counter-narcotics projects designed to cut trafficking through Asia. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 30% of Afghan opiates (including 90 tonnes of heroin a year) pass through Central Asia on their way to Russia, most of them through Tajikistan. The Economist believes that the industry is equivalent to 30-50% of Tajikistan’s GDP. NATO which is trying to withdraw from the region does not want to upset the status quo to keep the Tajik government supporting NATO.

Moves by the NATO alliance to disrupt Afghanistan’s drug trade has been slowed by objections from member nations that say their laws do not permit soldiers to carry out such operations and that this distracts from the real purpose of fighting terrorism. It seems that the global black market for opium will continue to do well in coming years.

NGO’s and development in Pakistan

Posted on | April 7, 2012 | No Comments

An interesting article on Pakistan has been posted at Global Dashboard (a knowledge hub for issues in international affairs and foreign policy) by Seth Kaplan “Why do some countries have so few NGOs?“, a policy consultant on state instability, governance and development based in New York. The thesis of it is as follows:

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are significant for service delivery to the poor, they hold governments accountable and are a positive impact on development. However, in Pakistan there is a very small number of NGOs, and as thus development Pakistan has suffered. Additionally respectable think tanks, and independent monitoring organizations (IMOs) are also few and far between.

Kaplan goes on to say that this lack of independent organizations extend to politics with political parties structures on kinship ties. However philanthropic contributions are huge (1% of GDP) but “a relatively small share of this money is going to build institutions that contribute to state building and social development. The poor may be gaining adequate relief from destitution—the streets of Pakistan have far fewer beggars than India—in ways that did little to change the situations.”

Firstly, the blame according to Kaplan falls on the Pakistani society dominated by kinship relationship that distrusts externally developed institutions. Secondly, institutions are not run by consensus but by cults of personality. The arguments are not without merits but Kaplan forgets some of the subtleties of the cases of India and Bangladesh that have a proliferation of NGOs. Most NGOs start off providing a specific serves in a specific policy areas and this hold true for India and Bangladesh as well. In India much of the drive behind NGOs and independent service delivery is entrepreneurship and a good business environment. In Pakistan the economic environment is too complex to such NGO growth. It is not kinship and ethnic ties that doesn’t let NGOs proliferate, its taxation, security, terrorism, inflation, transportation costs, road infrastructures etc., that make wide scale operations too risky or too costly. With many NGOs in Pakistan trying to works as self sustaining non-profit organizations, much of the activity is constrained because of economic reasons rather than the frailty of trust networks.

Kaplan’s second point on institutions being hijacked by the people who are running them is also flawed because assuming NGOs to be independent ventures, initially NGOs are the effort of a few people but there is no evidence to suggest that these people are corrupt or grossly inefficient. Personal power in government institutions is a different matter and it is too much of a generalization to bunch NGOs with all other institutions and say that these are run on personal agendas.

Kaplan’s broad-brushed analysis then jumps to the weakness of civil society being weak and only advocating specific issues. But is that not how civil society and lobbying groups work? Accepting that Pakistan has fewer NGOs, can we even say that NGO’s cause development? NGOs are small scale service provides where the state cannot reach, they fill in the gaps in development and give signals to the state and civil society highlighting vulnerabilities. Development has always been the job of the state. The weakness of civil society advocacy and participation is key to this. NGOs do have a role in this, however the case of Pakistan is different from that of Bangladesh and India. We have vast networks of charity based on societal trust (that Kaplan says is weak in Pakistan). Even NGOs like SOS Children’s Villages and CARE in Pakistan operate on these donations. Just because Pakistan does not have an NGO titan like Grameen, does not mean that philanthropy and non-state service delivery are not present. Additionally there is a large growing criticism of microfinance and its actual impact on development due to high interest rates and defaults with loans. The problem with too many NGOs is that the governments starts relying on these NGOs for development, and this is not a sustainable solution for long term economic and social development and it de-links civils society from the state.

Rather than just looking at  the number of NGOs in Pakistan as a problem, a better question would be to see how significant NGOs actually are for development in Pakistn and what are the conditions that are inhibiting development as compared to India and Bangladesh? NGOs is probably not the answer.

Saadia Gardezi

Splitting Dhaka: Should megacities divide?

Posted on | March 9, 2012 | No Comments

This article was originally drafted by Intellecap for the newsletter “Searchlight South Asia” as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Searchlight Process. For more Searchlight content on, please click here.

Urbanization in Bangladesh has unique and challenging characteristics: extremely unbalanced growth with 60% of its people living in four cities, and risk from natural disaster and severe climate change impact. In Dhaka, the country’s capital, rapid urbanization has nearly paralyzed the city’s ability to grow equitably. Today, 37% of the city’s population lives on 5% of available land. The population density of Dhaka’s slums is seven times more than the rest of the city, according to the Centre for Urban Studies Dhaka. In an unprecedented move in the region, the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), the capital’s governing body, declared that the situation has become too uncontrollable for a single entity to govern effectively. On November 28, 2011, the country’s massive capital—and one of the world’s largest cities—split into two.

Dhaka’s two governing bodies are now the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), with 36 wards, and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), with 56 wards. On December 3rd, ahartal—citywide shutdown—was declared in Dhaka to protest Parliament’s decision, and since then, widespread criticism has reigned. The bill splitting the DCC was introduced just seven days prior to its passing, leaving little time for debate, discussion or research to understand the implications of the bifurcation. Defending the decision, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said there is a precedent for dividing large cities, citing far-off examples in London, Sydney and Manila. The move, she says, was a necessary measure to bring improved services to a city in need of major reforms.

Implications of the Two Dhakas

A unified Dhaka city was, by all accounts, a tangled mess. Traffic congestion brought commuters to a halt for hours. Among the causes is that just 5-6% of roads have been built on the city’s available land whereas the worldwide average for a city is 25%. Unlike in India’s megacities, where most cities are under massive construction with high-flying cranes dotting city skylines, Dhaka has seen few projects to their completion.

Predictably, the division of the city along a north-south line has also received criticism for its potential to further exacerbate socio-economic divisions in the city. “The south DCC will be deprived from resources. On the other hand, the north DCC, where powerful and rich people of the city live, would get more financial allocation,” says Salahuddin Aminuzzaman, professor of public administration at Dhaka University, in an opinion piece. This leads to the question of economic viability—can a city that was struggling financially as one unit now exist vibrantly as two? To fairly assess the division’s impact, critics say, a study into the financial as well as social implications was necessary before implementation.

Restructuring Democracy

The decision to split Dhaka was taken with little assessment; however, moving forward rightly will require deeper inquiries into the very democratic systems on which South Asia’s cities are run. As the urban poor quickly become the majority, are the current governing bodies able to represent these new and ever-changing voices? Would dividing megacities into separate entities increase efficiency and lower representation ratios, thereby improving the living environments of city residents? In Dhaka, at least, the majority is skeptical. Critics attribute the nine-minute Parliament decision to divide Dhaka as a calculated move to hold onto power rather than a proactive move to improve the lives of the city’s residents.

The “inevitability” of the decision from the ruling party’s side has resulted in a storm of controversy from “most opposition parties including BNP [Bangladesh Nationalist Party], the civil society groups and the media, criticizing the government move as uncalled for,” according to an Independent article. Architect, activist and driving force behind the First Bangladesh Urban Forum Iqbal Halent calls the move disastrous for the residents of the city, especially the poor. The main issue, he says, is that there are 11 ministries under the DCC that run everything from transportation to housing to fiduciary aspects, and dozens of organizations under those 11 divisions. “Splitting the Dhaka City Corporation will make an already uncoordinated system even more ineffective,” says Halent. “The move will make it extremely difficult to implement citywide megaprojects, including the desperately needed infrastructure upgrading.”

New Ideas of Representation
As the two Dhakas move forward, new notions of representation in the cities—one that actively involves its citizenry—could, perhaps, set Dhaka North and Dhaka South on new and positive paths. Without citizen participation, the government will continue to fall short on meeting the needs of the people. India struggles with similar gaps in its democratic representation, most egregiously in urban areas. Ramesh Ramanathan, co-founder with his wife, Swati, of the Bangalore-based organization Janaagraha, put forth his ideas for a more inclusive democracy in urban India during “The Future of the Urban Poor Speaker Series” in Mumbai. In an article on which his talk was based, he writes: “India today has the smallest number of decision makers to population when it comes to public issues …  And as for the average urban resident, forget it.  Imagine if this is true for the ‘empowered’ urban Indian, what it could be doing to the urban poor. They are twice forsaken, once because of their state, and once by the state.”

Ramanathan proposes a platform that institutionalizes the participation of India’s urban citizens by adding a third tier to the current governing structure. This tier would stand below the ward level and would provide an opportunity for citizens to “meaningfully” participate in the decision-making process of the city. The ward committees, he suggests, have been limited in their functionality because of “the combination of a debatable nomination process, limited citizen representation and an ambiguous mandate.” A new third rung, called “area sabhas”—under the municipality and ward level—would create a more bottom-up focused representation that would have greater potential to respond to localized needs of vastly diverse megacities.

Conclusion: Should Megacities Divide?

So the question no longer remains “Should Dhaka divide?” Since the split has already happened, the question now is how can North Dhaka and South Dhaka most effectively meet the growing needs of its citizens at a time of rapid expansion and change. The Bangladeshi cities will need to stand as a model in the region for not only creating platforms within their own respective governance structures by involving citizens, but they will need to think creatively about how to harmoniously integrate on bigger issues that will stretch across the divided borders. The Prime Minister has given examples of Western cities like London and Sydney, which rarely—if ever—offer appropriate solutions for the region. Dhaka may need to look closer to home to find new ways of looking at governing structures. The result may just be a new and better way of governing Asia’s new urban citizens.


Posted on | February 25, 2012 | 2 Comments

Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant one country a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate ) and you have to do the same for WTO members. This principle is known as most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment which is the first article of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)and a priority in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Thus a move towards MFN implies that Pakistan will not discriminate against India as the MFN, and by extension will apply the same treatment to other countries.  In 1998, the United States renamed MFN status to “permanent normal trade relations” and the MFN needs to be treated as a normalisation of trade rather than a move threatening Pakistan’s economy  or sovereignty. The following article elaborates on the gains both countries stand to make.

By Mian Mohammad Mansha for the Financial Times Blog February 20, 2012

The benefits of trade, especially in the global village, are well known. Neighbours such as India and Pakistan are especially well-placed to profit from doing business together due to their common heritage, languages, and physical proximity. Together, both nations could spread the economic benefits from increasing trade to large sections of their people.

Given the history of conflict, distrust and bureaucratic inertia in India-Pakistan relations, this won’t happen overnight. But a stronger emphasis on developing common interests in bilateral trade could move things forward. An Indian delegation’s visit to Pakistan last week was a small step on the right road, which could one day be followed by giant strides.

The key lies in developing ‘mutual interest’.  Without this underlying logic, the piecemeal dialogue between the two countries on opening wide our borders for trade has so far brought litte result.

I welcome last week’s decision by Pakistan to commit to expanding imports from India to include almost 9000 goods, up from the current 1900 items. This was no mean achievement. A year down the line,  as the manifest benefits of growing bilateral trade become more apparent, the ‘negative list’ of restricted import categories will surely be ready for further trimming. Eventually true most-favoured nation (MFN) status can be bestowed mutually without any petty conditions.

Obviously, vested commercial interests on both sides will try and thwart such initiatives. Some of these are in the security business,  while others are in high-cost industries that may be threatened by better-value imports from the other side. But this too shall pass if the ruling establishments in both countries see the folly of their past ways and welcome new opportunities for their impoverished people.

Businessmen and industrialists from both countries already have cordial relations with each other. These will be strengthened when they start sharing products and services from which they stand to benefit. For instance, privatized banks in Pakistan are well capitalised, and Indian businesses should welcome their branches to facilitate import-export transactions. Traders across the border can plug into each other’s cotton harvests, which take place at different times of the year in each country.

People-to-people and sporting relations would also improve with a growth in trade, especially if it is accompanied by more liberal visa policies. One need hardly mention the enthusiasm of cricket and hockey fans, who are already big markets for business in both countries.

Shared historical memories, food, travel, culture, language and tradition are obvious connections between the two countries. And there will be synergies aplenty as the maps unfold. For instance, the northern part of India has a shortage of limestone, which can be easily imported from Pakistan. Gypsum for fertilizers, home textile products and even citrus fruits from north Pakistan and Afghanistan can be imported to India.

Likewise, Pakistan can benefit from India by importing fuel and agricultural products, updated IT-related technologies and textiles. And best of all, tourism and the hospitality business will boom to quench people’s thirst for understanding about the ‘other’. My city Lahore may once again become the pearl of the east if Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims mingle as never before in the last six decades.

Certainly, the ascent of civilian democracy in Pakistan, whatever its limitations, is a good sign that the “national security state” based on fear of the ‘other’ is on the wane, and a social security state based on the welfare of its people is developing.

Last year, India’s trade with Pakistan was worth about $2bn,  or less than 0.5 per cent of $600bn in total.  Meanwhile, India accounted for only 1.2 per cent of Pakistan’s total exports worth nearly $25bn, and 4 per cent of its total imports worth $32bn. Compare this with the situation in 1947 at the time of partition, when it stood at nearly 60%. This proves that there is a dual carriage-motorway of trade waiting to be built between the two countries.

With trade will come economic growth which in turn generates jobs, rising disposable incomes and more competitive prices – in short, higher standards of living. Better still, talk of war and jingoism will dissipate with the creation of positive economic interests on both sides.

Let us together seize the moment.

Mian Mohammad Mansha is chairman of Nishat Group, Pakistan’s largest business conglomerate.

Copyright. The Financial Times.

The missing ‘F’ in decentralization

Posted on | February 12, 2012 | No Comments

Decentralization won’t succeed unless governments moves ahead in devolving functionaries. The following is a look at the Gram Panchayat system of local governance in India. There are lessons to be learnt from such systems for successful decentralization and public service delivery  in South Asia. Some of the problems include inadequate  or “mis-staffing” and the lack of performance assessment.

Doug Johnson and Suvojit Chattopadhyay- 6th Feb, 2012

Democratic decentralisation in India is usually thought of as devolution of the three Fs – Funds, Functions and Functionaries – to local governments. So far in this country, we have seen patchy progress in all three and the one that has lagged behind the most is functionaries, or staff. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution in 1992 established local governments as constitutional bodies and identified 29 subjects that were to be devolved to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI). This law also required all the states in India to pass corresponding legislations. This is democratic decentralization, since it involves the transfer of powers to democratically-elected local government bodies in rural and urban areas.

The Gram Panchayat (GP) is the key institution in this framework of local governance, and has been delegated multiple responsibilities in executing key developmental schemes financed by the state and central governments. There are many problems with the flow of funds to GPs, but even so, the quantum of funds that flow to them has increased significantly over the years. For instance, in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), a GP on average could handle works running into lakhs of rupees each year. There are many other government schemes that require GPs to plan and implement developmental works. In addition, GPs are also expected to raise local revenues to complement the fiscal assistance it receives from the state.

In recent years, many doubts have been raised on the merits of decentralization itself – on its ability to deliver better quality of public services, on its willingness to raise resources and on its ability to improve local accountability in general. Critical to meeting these expectations is the level of devolution of functionaries to the control of local governments in our country. The Planning Commission’s approach paper to the 12th Five year plan admits that an important reason for the relative lack of success of many flagship programmes in India is that the local institutions that should run these programmes are not adequately empowered as they have seen little effective devolution of funds or of control over functionaries.

In this piece, we focus on the issue of functionaries – a critical component that’s missing from the decentralisation frame as things stand at present. There are several ways in which GPs experience this capacity constraint:
• In many states, GPs function with virtually no staff. For example, it would not be uncommon to find one Panchayat Secretary managing affairs for three GPs in Bihar. In these states, even in departments that have been devolved, functionaries have not been transferred to the GPs. There are several unanswered questions regarding the precise definition of duties of staff of transferred institutions. There is also no clarity on the scope of functions of these institutions and what services they may be held accountable for. In all these instances, the GP remains a helpless tier of government, unable to take on any additional responsibilities.
• Even where functionaries have been transferred, significant obstacles remain – The Government of Kerala for example, prescribed the transfer of staff to match the transfer of functions and institutions. Thus, scores of government staff such as teachers, agricultural extension workers, doctors, veterinarians etc have been placed under the control of local governments. These government officials, now brought under the control of GPs, have to interact directly with citizens in the local planning processes and in other aspects of their daily work. However, the transferred staff are recruited by the state public service commissions and their salaries are paid by their respective line departments (just as before the decentralisation reforms). They join service in their respective line departments and are set for tenure in their line departments. GPs have little or no say in their performance assessments

This is not surprising in the least. The government bureaucracy, which has long since been oriented towards centralised governance and a hierarchical reporting structure, has to witness a radical transformation to complement the functioning of GPs now expected to represent local populations as democratically elected people’s representatives. There is no doubt that GPs need more control over their staff, perhaps even the right to hire and compensate their own cadres. Any scepticism one may have regarding the ability of GPs to manage their own staff need only look at research findings that show that teachers appointed by GPs in village schools with powers to hold them accountable for their performance have been turning in consistent results as opposed to regular government teachers.

As Jairam Ramesh mentions in his interview to Mint, it is futile to expect GPs to implement programmes like MGNREGS successfully without building their technical capacity. To the extent that technical capacity can be built only by trained manpower in its ranks, it is safe to believe that the lack of functionaries is the biggest constraint our GPs face today.
Suvojit Chattopadhyay is a development professional with over six years of experience in India, UK and Ghana. Doug Johnson is a development consultant with experience in microfinance, impact evaluation, and payment solutions. Doug has worked in China, India, and Nepal.

Economic globalization and democratic transition in contemporary China

Posted on | January 11, 2012 | No Comments

By Momina Awais

It is generally assumed among political theorists that economic liberalization may leads to democratization but in case of China, it has not made the transition to liberal democracy. China has emerged as an emerging economic power and fills in the criteria of a Global power such as a largely populated country with world’s best armies and economically the world’s fourth largest trading nation. China’s rule over market economy, its rich culture and its membership in all significant international organizations depicts its role as a global power. China is no doubt a transnational performer. China has emerged into this new role due to its progress in the economic sector and by adopting the system of free markets. So the question is that if economic globalization involves little more than the integration of the world capitalist economy, then democracy cannot be viewed as its definite or assured outcome.  The experience of China suggests that there is no definite or direct link between economic liberalization and liberal democracy. Before going into the reasons for this unique case lets discuss what we mean by liberal democracy and economic transition.

“Liberal democracy is a form of representative democracy where elected representatives that hold the decision power are moderated by a constitution that emphasizes protecting individual liberties and the rights of minorities in society, such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, the right to private property and privacy, as well as equality before the law and due process under the rule of law, and many more.”

“Economic liberalization refers more to liberalization or further ‘opening up’ of the respective economies to foreign capital and investments. Three of the fastest growing developing economies today; Brazil, China and India, have achieved rapid economic growth in the past several years or decades after they have ‘liberalized’ their economies to foreign capital.” Thus keeping in view the above mentioned definitions we can examine the case of China in this regard. Let us have a look at both economic and political reforms in china and their respective outcomes.

Reform: Economic vs Political

China originally modeled its political and economic structures similar to those of the Soviet Union thus having an emphasis on heavy industry, collectivized agriculture, and central planning of production which prevailed in China from 1949 until 1978.  Following Mao’s death, however, a reform agenda initiated by Deng Xiaoping significantly altered the course of Chinese politics.  Deng’s reforms had the primary objectives of economic development and the reintegration of China into the global economy.  Deng’s reform agenda manifested a global vision that is to aid China’s modernization process through economic benefits gained from expanding global exchange and trade.  The initial phases of Deng’s reforms involved maintaining state control of the economy while simultaneously allowing market elements to develop in agriculture and retail distribution, as well as preserving central-planning in major industries while allowing smaller enterprises to openly sell anything produced beyond state-imposed targets. The final stages of Deng’s economic reforms during the 1990s involved a greater degree of separation of government and economy.  The market system in China became firmly anchored and the Chinese economy began to more closely resemble a market economy.

Its impressive accomplishments are further highlighted when contrasted against the post-communist difficulties experienced by Russia.  The shift to market principles has in turn propelled state reforms and led to improvements in many areas of public life.  In addition to having relieved the shortage of public goods that had been common under communist rule, market provisions now allow for choice, quality and efficiency.  Due to the success of its economic re-structuring and the opening of its markets to foreign investors, China is now a major global actor capable of affecting international political and economic stability.

In addition to economic consequences, globalization affects political outcomes also.  A primary focus of globalisation is the manner in which economic development, arising from the interconnectedness of global markets, is expected to lead to identifiable changes in domestic political structures.  The commonly held assumption is that economic liberalization will lead to political liberalization and subsequently democracy. Despite the transition to market economies China has not made the transition.  The most significant change under Deng’s leadership has been the retreat from revolutionary totalitarian rule.  To achieve long-term stability and industrial modernization, Deng transformed the Chinese Communist Party into a legally-regulated regime that promised a more liberal political system. It was during Deng’s period that competitive elections were held at the local level.  In 1979, the Communist Party first allowed citizens to directly elect delegates to local congresses.  Under Deng’s policy of promoting democracy and political liberalization, the government also relaxed its control over the media, and has recently taken steps to accommodate international appeal for improvement of its domestic human rights situation.

Despite these political reforms, however, China today is by no means a liberal democracy.  Although the term ‘democracy’ has been used by recent Chinese leaders, the Chinese Communist Party does not intend to introduce a representative government that is “constituted through free and competitive elections under the rule of law”, a fundamental element of Western liberal democracy.  Both direct and competitive elections at the district levels have been widely practiced; however these elections are not competitive and are reportedly manipulated by the Communist Party.

Culturalist and Modernist Explanations

Why has the transition to capitalism failed to create a stable liberal democracy. Such political changes, however, are not the result of a single variable, but of the interaction of external and domestic factors.  Understanding democratic transition thus requires examining how external and domestic variables interact.  Both Culturalist and Modernization theorists view democratic transition as a function of internal, rather than exclusively external, factors.

According to the Cultural theorists, political culture is significant in explaining the absence of democracy in China.  In a strong democratic culture, the public is more likely to believe in and support democratic norms and forces while China’s Confucian society is largely undemocratic.  Confucian culture “sets up a strictly hierarchical structure for the society, which translates into rule by moral example rather than rule of law.” In a Confucian society such as China, there is no equivalent to the notion of human rights that is predominant in liberal democracies and it is the reason for Human rights violations on part of China.  Although Chinese culture has evolved throughout history, group consciousness in China remains strong as does the emphasis on hierarchical structure.  Given China’s geographic size and large population, the Confucian social order may be more significant than other factors in impeding the transition to liberal democracy since it is difficult to promote an ideology in a populated and geographically bigger state.

Similarly, China’s political culture, social order and history have each affected its level of development and modernization, both of which are considered factors in democratization.  Although China has performed well economically, the population remains relatively poor and the high poverty rate is a hurdle to China’s global power.  China’s uneven economic development has benefited urban centers while leaving rural areas largely disadvantaged.  Consequently, there has been a turn in rural areas against economic liberalization.

Other, smaller Confucian societies such as Taiwan and South Korea have successfully made the transition to democracy.  However, China’s geographic size, population and rising disparity in wealth make it unlikely that China will soon be able to achieve the level of modernization required to make the transition to liberal democracy.


Thus we come to the conclusion that the experience of China indicates the absence of any direct or definite link between economic liberalization and transition to liberal democracy. The likelihood of any democratic transition in China is minimal. Among other factors, China simply does not have a social order in place to facilitate or encourage democratization.  It is possible that a social order more favorable to facilitating democracy may result both from further economic development and from cultural change arising from China’s increased global openness.  Such influences, however, may take many years to have effect.  Although it is true among already-established democracies that a high average income contributes to political stability, the growing number of affluent authoritarian states strongly suggests that economic growth alone is not sufficient to lead to democracy.

No one factor or analysis can explain why China has not followed a path towards democratization similar to that of Western Europe and North America.  China has unique characteristics that led each to adopt communism; those same characteristics, subsequently, have impeded the transition of each country towards a functioning liberal democracy.


Bruce Gilley , “China’s Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead.”  In China’s Democratic Future. 2005

Minxin Pei, “Is China’s Transition Trapped and What Should the West do about it?”  In Rule of Law in China: Chinese Law and Business. 2005


Corruption and fundamentalist revolutions-Discussions from Africa

Posted on | November 6, 2011 | No Comments

Lets start off by looking at the logic of corruption in society. This ‘logic’ come outs of experiences of systemic corruption, and is not just visible in Africa.

1.    Corruption is wide ranging, affecting many types of transaction;
2.    Corruption has become the norm;
3.    Everybody hates corruption; Nobody will denounce the corrupt;
4.    Corruption corrupts, and once the rot sets in little can be done to stop it;
5.    All political systems are prone to corruption (democracy offers no easy cure);
6.    Corruption is considered “fair” by its perpetrators, but not by its victims.

We have taken this description of corruption from a paper titled, “A moral economy of corruption in Africa” (De Sardan, 1999). The general conclusion drawn by the author  is that the most likely outcome of conscious and generalized corruption is a fundamentalist revolution. The description of corrupt practices, and our discussion to follow, is very relevant to the case of Pakistan.

Pakistans Corruption Rankings, Transparency International

Corruption is diverse in practice and is not marginal or sectoral  and ranges from petty corruption to major (state elite corruption). It is generalized and banalised, and a central part of civil discourse. However, everybody knows who is corrupt, but it would be unthinkable to denounce a relative or acquaintance to the police. Similarly, “Important individuals” are all compromised and dare not denounce each other, giving rise to a loose network of solidarity. Corruption is expanding, and seems to be irreversible due to its pervasiveness and “normalisation”. In the case of Africa this inability to regress comes from state failure, massive unemployment, unproductive civil servants, an irresponsible ruling elite and underpaid civil servants. Additionally development aid and income from illegal drugs trade and demands has caused clientelism favorable to corruption.

Single institution/sector perceived to be most affected by corruption, overall results. Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2009. Percentages are weighted.

Such a situation offers dismal prospects for political solutions. De Sardan writes that, “There is no obvious correlation between the extent of corruption, on the one hand, and the types of political regime, their degree of despotism and their economic effectiveness, on the other.” Thus the type of government may affect the type of corruption in vogue, but not its scale. Secondly, corrupt practices are consider legitimate by perpetuators, it may sometimes only be exclusion from the gains of corruption that causes criticism and awareness- “A minister may think it fair to use government resources to build a villa, because he is far from being properly recompensed for his services.” Predatory authorities may even consider these gains a right of office- a mindset modeled on colonial relationships. Corruption is also necessary for social acceptance and the logic of solidarity requires linkages from school or family or middlemen, and bargaining patters or gift giving between them, to get things done.

What facilitates the acceptance and fuels the banality or everyday-ness of corruption? Within traditional cultures there exists a practice of over-monetarisation. By over-monetarisation De Sadan means the social pressure to give gifts, especially in cash (e.g. marriage gifts, birth announcements, religious holiday gifts etc.) These social relations can form an “excuse”, or a vehicle, for corruption practices like bribery, concessions etc. Shame or guilt of not helping and acquaintance with the manipulation of the system is also a reason for acceptance of corruption and a legitimization of ones own actions. A study of civil servant corruption from Malawi says that three sets of rules intertwined- official rules, kinship rules and the unofficial code of conduct, are what encourage corrupt behavior (Anders, 2002).

Coming to the issue of a “fundamentalist revolution”, a major proposition in anthropological studies of corruption say that it is not realistic to combat corrupt practices as long as the people who take part in them view them as acceptable, thus systemic reform will be difficult. For success an almost utopian change at the administrative level will be needed. As long as political elites are unwilling to give up some of their privileges and to reform, changing the general public’s attitudes may ultimately take the form of ‘puritanical’ or ‘fundamentalist’ movements based in the ‘grassroots’ (Fjeldstad, Kolstad and Lange, 2003).

Anders, G, “Like Chameleons: Civil servants and corruption in Malawi”, 2002, La gouvernance au quitidien en Afrique, 23-24.
De Sardan, J P Olivier,  “A moral economy of corruption in Africa?, Journal of Modern African Studies”, 37, 1, 1999, pp 25 – 52
Fjeldstad, O, Ivar Kolstad and Siri Lange, “Autonomy incentives and patronage: A study of corruption in the Tanzania and Uganda revenue authority”, 2003, CMI: Norway.



The 2011 post-flood economy

Posted on | October 19, 2011 | 1 Comment

In light of the current floods situation in Sindh, the economic growth rate may be 0.5 percentage point lower than the original government target of 4.2 percent. Last years growth was 2.4 percent and one of the lowest of the decade.

However the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its Asian Development Outlook 2011 predicts growth to continue slow, at 2.5 percent, “Damage was less severe than initially feared, but agriculture and communication were hit hard. Total damage is put at more than $10 billion, half in agriculture.” The report said that inflation is expected to stay high through FY2011, for an average annual 16 percent but may decline to 13 percent in FY2012 when the increases in electricity prices may moderate the effect of international food prices.

With the need to spend on reconstruction and rehabilitation, the government has had to scale down spending and has cut a development spending. The effect of this measure however was neutralized this year due to a sharp fall in the non-tax revenues. Tax revenues this year have increased by 6.4 percent but non-tax revenues have fallen by 35.5 percent during the first quarter of FY2011.

More than 60 percent people in Pakistan are still experiencing food insecurity, as food is inaccessible to them due to all-time high food inflation according to Dr Faisal Bari, the National Emergency Co-ordinator, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations. This year in some parts of southern Punjab and Sindh, many farmers have not sowed this Kharif season because they were afraid of expected floods which would make them unable to pay back loans.

Contextualizing Landlessness in Rural Pakistan: Policy Brief

Posted on | October 14, 2011 | No Comments

By Syed Muhammad Ali:

While the ongoing analysis of land reforms pays due attention to attempts and failures of donors, state policies, and social movements in trying to achieve effective reforms, the role played by local power structures within the rural political economy in terms of facilitating or subverting land reforms continues to receive much less attention.

This policy paper aims to explore why state and donor policies remain unable to improve the lives of landless cultivators in rural Pakistan, what role local power structures play in subverting state and donor land reform policies to contend with landlessness, and to identify how landless cultivators themselves are reacting to this situation.

The World Bank/IMF approach to addressing the problem of rural inequalities has relied traditionally on supporting capital intensive and technological approaches. Almost three decades of structural adjustment programs instituted as part of IMF and World Bank loan packages to developing countries have resulted in diminishing subsidies for farming inputs like fertilizers and seeds which poorer farmers, including landless cultivators now also rely on.

The World Bank inspired strategies like the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) for Pakistan make explicit references to corporate agriculture for increasing agricultural productivity by exploiting economies of consolidation and scale (GoPB 2005). Corporate agriculture may be a pro-growth measure, but it implies use of capital-intensive farming, which would decrease demand for on-farm labour and also reduce land available for sharecropping by poorer farmers. Yet, the Corporate Farming Ordinance (CFO) passed in 2001 has enabled lease of vast tracts of state owned lands to richer states, like the United Arab Emirates, for growing food for their own country using capital-intensive techniques, which may include tapping into the deep underground water aquifers, whereby exacerbating water scarcity for surrounding farmers. While these stated apprehensions concerning corporate farming note the role of the government and donors in facilitating agribusiness, they remain unable to draw sufficient linkages between donor and state policies on the one hand, and the influence that existing land-owners have exerted on such ‘pro-growth strategies’, despite their potential adverse impacts on landless cultivators.

Neoliberal agrarian restructuring over the past two decades is widely seen to have expanded the scope of already established inequitable (land) ownership and (agricultural) production relations by increased commodification and exposure of an even greater number of people to the market imperative. However, the context specific implications of this ongoing trend merit further research, as does the issue of how local.

For our purposes, can market-based interventions which seem acceptable to donors, and remain palatable to the state actually empower those with no access to land?


keep looking »
  • Partners

    SEBRA: A proprietary research and consulting services and support organization, geared towards promoting knowledge-driven activities in Pakistan through propriety research and consulting support. SEBRA believes that the long-term solution to Pakistan’s economic problems lies in transformation towards a knowledge-based economy, creating a new competitive edge for Pakistan and SEBRA is positioning itself to contribute towards that transformation. SEBRA offers expertise in the areas of competitiveness and private sector development, education policy and management, workforce development and entrepreneurship policy and development.
  • Fellows

    Arsalan Haneef is a finance and audit expert who has worked with the government of Pakistan, Asian Development Bank and other development agencies on numerous research and consulting assignments. Asad Jamal is a Human Rights lawyer based in Lahore. He is a regular contributor to national and regional publications and specializes in justice sector reforms, women's rights and labour laws. In the recent past he advised the government of Punjab in reviewing the policy/legal framework for the livestock sector. Hasaan Khawar is a management consultant with expertise in public-private partnerships, private sector development, agriculture & livestock and governance. He Asad Mekan is a procurement and tax reform specialist who has worked with public sector agencies in the Asian Development Bank and international consulting firms on public sector reform and economic growth programs/projects. Saadia Gardezi is an economist and independent researcher based in Lahore. She teaches at the Lahore School of Economics and also contributes to national media and development blogs. Her skills include data analysis, qualitative analysis and macroeconomic policy analysis.
  • Network

  • Contact Us

    Please email us at